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Two Paths to Equality

Alice Paul and Ethel M. Smith in the ERA Debate, 1921-1929

Amy E. Butler

Publication Year: 2002

In Two Paths to Equality, Amy E. Butler provides a fascinating portrait of two of the major adversaries in the 1920s’ battle over equal rights legislation for women in the United States—Alice Paul and Ethel M. Smith. While they shared the goal of full political and legal equality for women, they differed on how best to achieve it. Paul, the author of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and leader of the National Woman’s Party, fought to establish that women were the same as men under the law. Smith, legislative secretary of the National Women’s Trade Union League and a recognized leader of the opposition to the ERA, believed the ERA did not adequately consider the impact of class and economic differences in women’s lives and consequently would sacrifice the interests of one group of women to another. Smith and Paul’s conflict is a telling story of the inextricable relationship between personal politics, collective action, and the intersection of law and culture on the social construction of gender. Comparing their perspectives on equality creates a new understanding of the people and issues at stake in the ERA debate.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

Many librarians and archivists provided essential assistance with this book. I would like to thank the Schlesinger Library staff as well as the archivists at the Library of Congress, National Archives, Swarthmore College, George Washington University, and Vassar College. State University of New York at Binghamton librarians Rachelle Moore, Diane Geraci, Cheryl McKee, and Ed Sheppard were instrumental to the completion of this work. ...

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Introduction: The Elusive Search for Equal Rights in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 1-11

This book began in the early 1990s as a biography of Alice Paul. Stories of her tenacious and intrepid leadership during the suffrage movements in England and the United States, and as the author of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), brought to life a charismatic woman who refused to compromise her principles as she advanced a legislative agenda to establish full political and legal equality for women. ...

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1. “To the Victor Belong the Spoils”: The Merits of a Combined Suffrage and Labor Agenda, 1877–1920

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pp. 12-32

Ethel Smith’s home state of Illinois was a microcosm of labor protest, government corruption, and social reform. As the nation moved from an agricultural to industrial economy, state and local policy makers allied with industrial interests, maintaining the dominance of decentralized government and the political philosophy of laissez-faire individualism. With support from state officials, employers smashed existing unions and thwarted attempts at unionization through yellow-dog contracts and injunctions. ...

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2. From Charity Organization to Militant Protest: Alice Paul’s Rise to Prominence, 1885–1920

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pp. 33-54

Like Ethel Smith, Alice Paul rose to prominence as a defender of women’s rights in the workplace. She too believed that men and women were entitled to equal compensation and opportunity, and that discriminatory practices should be abolished. Though both women shared the same political and economic concerns, their organizational affiliations and approach to achieving their goals differed dramatically. The similarities in their personal politics could not be bridged due in part to their different class backgrounds and choice of organizational affiliations. ...

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3. “[S]ome Group of Women Must Keep on Developing the Power of Women As a Class”*: The National Woman’s Party, 1921–1923

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pp. 55-71

Both Ethel Smith and Alice Paul emerged from the suffrage victory exhausted, in poor health, and more determined than ever to continue the battle to achieve full political and legal equality for women. We already know that Smith focused intently on labor legislation to equalize women’s status in society and viewed the suffrage movement as a means to build support for the unionization of women workers, the eight-hour day and minimum wage laws for women. ...

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4. “Women’s Biggest Battle Is Yet to Be Fought”: Ethel M. Smith and the Women’s Trade Union League, 1921–1923

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pp. 72-89

Alice Paul specifically invited Ethel Smith to speak before the NWP’s 1921 convention to outline the WTUL’s legislative platform. Despite the controversy Paul stirred during the suffrage movement, Smith told her she would be happy to “tell the convention briefly the scope of our national program, especially with reference to legislation.” During her presentation, she clearly summarized the WTUL’s main objectives, explaining that the organization “stood for collective bargaining through trade unions; a maximum 8-hour day and 44-hour week; a just wage; a wage based on occupation and not on sex; full citizenship and equal economic rights for women.” ...

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5. The ERA v. Women’s Minimum Wage: The Legal Debate Between Paul and Smith, 1921–1923

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pp. 90-107

From the preceding chapters in this book, we already know that between 1921 and 1923, Smith emerged as a seasoned lobbyist who was recognized for her expertise on such issues as civil service reform, equal pay in public and private employment, and women’s minimum-wage. She also had built a reputation for her trade union activities, commitment to collective action and media talents. During this same period, Paul struggled to build a solid membership base for the NWP, with a focus on garnering support from the nation’s wealthiest women. ...

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Conclusion - Two Paths to Equality: The Difference It Makes

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pp. 108-113

The preceding chapters portray the ERA debate between 1921 and 1923 as a case study of the legislative and legal strategies used by national women’s organizations in the first half of the twentieth century to advance equal rights for women. Using a biographical method, this study responds to more than twenty-five years of historiography portraying the debate as either a feminist dichotomy or a disagreement over women’s sameness to or difference from men. ...

Notes

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pp. 115-150

Bibliography

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pp. 151-161

Index

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pp. 163-167


E-ISBN-13: 9780791488874
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791453193
Print-ISBN-10: 0791453197

Page Count: 177
Publication Year: 2002

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Subject Headings

  • Women's rights -- United States -- History.
  • Equal rights amendments -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1919-1933.
  • Paul, Alice, 1885-1977.
  • Smith, Ethel Marion, 1877-1951.
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